Are you thinking about moving into a new maintenance repair shop, or considering remodeling the one you currently operate out of? Before you hire an architect to begin the design, consider this: you may be saving yourself a great deal of time—and thousands of dollars—by retaining the services of a Fleet Management Facility Programmer (FMFP). By doing so you will probably end up in a facility that is vastly more operationally efficient, and fine-tuned to match the services your company provides.
Typically, an architect will approach a building solution by listing the client’s assumed needs, then designing the facilities according to the list. There are several things wrong with this approach.
If the architect and the fleet manager are unaware of new state-of-the-art capital equipment that can expedite repairs, reduce repair cost and increase productivity the new shop just becomes bigger box containing the current inefficient operation. If the fleet manager and the architect are not aware of operating inefficiencies—excessive or deficient staffing levels, oversized or aging fleets, inadequate inventory levels, or changing industry practices (“outsourcing,” for example)—the architect will probably not account for such conditions in the final product.
Architects may be first-class facilities designers, buy they don’t necessarily understand how to analyze current (and predict future) operations, and translate operational characteristics into design parameters.
What develops is a design that is prematurely outdated, inefficient, costly to remedy and possibly hazardous.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
One way to avoid these pitfalls is to hire a professional FMFP, practiced at the art of designing and building according to what is really needed, correcting existing problems, and anticipating changes in industry practices. Decisions regarding new facilities are some of the most important ones you will be making. A professional FMFP knows these decisions are directly related to your level of productivity—how well you are able to deliver services.
Why does your owner want to invest in a new facility? Fleet repair shops have long been referred to by owners as “a big hole we throw money at,” but that comment falls well short of an accurate statement. More accurately, a fleet repair shop is a tool, and perhaps the most important tool an operation has in its arsenal to provide a profitable and cost effective delivery of service. The difference is subtle but important.
A well-conceived, planned and programmed facility will have a tremendous and positive impact on productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Designed and built accordingly, your facility can make active contributions to your operation. If, for example, the heating and cooling expenses in your new facility run 22 percent lower than in the old one, the contributions made by your facilities can be quantified and therefore measured in terms of dollars. New shops have proven to increase mechanic productivity by as much as 23 percent. Productivity adds up to dollars saved, improved uptime of the fleet, less mechanics required and less equipment (fleet size) due to improved reliability of the first line fleet. These are a few of the cost savings owners will view as measurable steps if you expect them to build you a new facility.
The FMFP has many, many measurable factors that reveal how your facility does more than just hold tools and production staff. Cost savings associated with reduced energy consumption is just one element of the “Facilities Payback Analysis,” an important weapon found in the FMFP’s arsenal. Imagine delivering a presentation to your owner or stockholders, armed with information that shows how the new facility you propose can actually pay for itself in, say, nine years? Would this not give the powers-that-be a gentle nudge towards approval?
Facilities requiring replacement fall into four general categories: they are either outgrown, outdated, in the wrong location or outcast.
Outgrown—Small and large contractors continue to grow. Missions increase. New businesses mergers develop and the size of your staff grows, as does the size of your fleet. However, the size of your operations yard seems to decrease. Costs associated with purchasing, vs. renting, storing and delivering asphalt millings, recycling concrete that create huge storage piles, tank farm storage for emulsions and/or fuel for asphalt plants and equipment fueling end up consuming your yard.
Outdated—Old facilities can become expensive to operate. Structural deficiencies often accumulate and building occupants are none the wiser. Roofs develop leaks, mechanical and electrical systems become expensive to operate, limp along, and frequently breakdown. Older facilities were not designed to take advantage of some of the technological improvements, and are often very expensive to upgrade to accommodate today’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment. A FMFP can provide you with a “Facilities Condition Report,” and tell you what the cost to update your facility will be visa vis replacing it.
Wrong Location—Many contractors over the years have expanded and the home base from which they started is no longer the focal point of where there source of operation really is. In some cases the operation has moved into neighboring counties and, in some cases, states. The cost to transporting equipment to and from the actual construction site to the repair facility can be staggering in both miles drive and labor required to transport the equipment.
Outcast—Many times owners will try to take a short-cut and purchase an existing facility, converting it to a new repair facility. We have cautioned numerous owners on the pitfalls to this type of facility. Many of these facilities have been damaged by fire, damaged by water, or may fail to meet current codes and standards, such as those associated with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some have been determined to be hazardous; sometimes these facilities have been boarded up and abandoned for years. Many of them lack adequate floor thickness for vehicle lifts, can’t meet air quality issues, offer low ceiling height, lack overhead lifting and most always improper lighting. The list goes on and on.
What results is an old building that costs more than new construction, and still doesn’t fit the real operational needs of the company. A FMFP can collect information for you so you will know whether your facility is salvageable or whether you should consider another approach.
THE PLANNING STAGE
Facility Programming and Planning should begin when it is determined that facilities might be outdated, outgrown, wrong location or an outcast is being considered. A professional FMFP can and should be retained before an architect is called in to design the new facility. Architects are vital to the facilities design process, and they, too, benefit from the Facilities Programming and Planning effort. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that architects now hire professional Fleet Facility Programmers to reduce their costs, and help them design better facilities for their clients. Moreover, the type of professional service provided by the Fleet Facility Programmer can reduce architect costs by as much as four percent, another number you can use to justify cost savings to the owner.
As a matter of course, the Fleet Management Facilities Programmer assesses the work you do and/or the services you deliver as a function of your facility. The size of each area within the facility is based on this assessment. Your staff can tell the FMFP what they feel is needed, and the FMFP will use this information to augment the assessment. Ultimately, specific and general information about the current and proposed facilities are collected without prejudice. Perceived needs give way to actual needs.
HOW MANY TIRES?
Tire storage and repair are good examples. Often, organizations with tire storage in, say, a 400SF area will insist that 500SF is essential for the projected facility. The FMFP will examine stock on hand—are too many tires being stored? Too few? What are the associated tire shelf lives? How can the most effective vertical space utilization be achieved? Should tires be stored on the tread or on the sidewall? Does it matter? What are the clearances needed to accommodate replenishment or to remove tires from a rack? Where should the area be in the facilities plan? What are the recommended adjacencies? Can the supplier store tires for you and deliver them on short notice?
Proposed or potential consolidation of organizations and fleets adds depth to this issue. As for tire repair, the FMFP knows which issues directly relate to facilities. Are your employees safe from physical harm? Are the most current tools and safety devices available? What is this service costing you to provide? What are the facilities considerations that need to be programmed? Should tire repair be outsourced?
Another example: an administrative assistant in Fleet Management is located in a workstation sized at 64SF, and another administrative assistant in is in a 125SF office. Both work under the same position description, are paid the same, and are located in their current workspace because their predecessor was there. If a facilities change is planned, how should these workspaces be sized?
There is a temptation to place these employees in the same configurations they are leaving—the 64SF workstation for one and the 125SF office for the other. Easily done (and, unfortunately, often done!), but the FMFP knows that this is inappropriate.
“Because we have always done it this way” may be acceptable under some circumstances, but a professional FMFP has a more economical and justifiable plan, based on experience with the profession in question specifically adjusted according to the work performed. So, if the work accomplished by the administrative assistant supports a workstation sized at 80SF, the FMFP will recommend this. The work performed by the other administrative assistant may also support an 80SF workstation, but not necessarily. All workspace assignments are addressed in this fashion.
STORAGE AND PARKING
Storage and parking for vehicles is one of the issues addressed in great detail by a professional FMFP. Where should the entrances be located? How should the parking spaces be sized? Do some of the vehicles need to be parked indoors? Why? How are the turning radiuses planned? What about security? Is surveillance always appropriate? The FMFP will develop a justified, documented plan for fleet vehicle parking and for employee parking.
Worse than a facility that offers no help is a facility that has built-in inefficiencies, because that facility provides negative assistance. Fleet maintenance managers are often asked to accomplish fleet maintenance in facilities that hinder productivity due to poor or inappropriate design. Operating in facilities designed by a FMFP, the manager would benefit from the layout in every detail. The ceiling would be the correct height. Doors would be “hung” on the correct wall, open to the correct height and width, and designed to minimize maintenance. Each bay would be designed to accommodate specific fleet vehicles, and have the correct width, depth, drainage, and lifting devices. Lighting and temperature control would be efficient and effective.
Oil distribution, compressed air, information technology, access to parts and tools—all would be extremely well thought out and available as appropriate to each mechanic. Emergency power would be readily available, (if required) located out of sight and earshot. A comprehensive storage plan would have called for the design of storage locations for all documents, supplies and equipment, based on frequency of need. Readily accessible storage would be reserved for frequently used or often-consumed items, with out-of-the-way storage set aside for items used less often. And the shelving, cabinets, etc. within the location would be correctly configured for the items to be stored.
COST TO BUILD
Fleet Management Facility Programmers make it their business to know regional building practices, building codes, materials costs, site costs, estimate contingencies and predict costs in out years. Accurate cost estimating is your insurance against expensive and embarrassing cost overruns. In fact, Facilities Programmers will provide you with construction with great care.
A professional FMFP will argue that your facility is the most important tool in your toolbox. The investment is substantial. You owe it to yourself and to your owner to insure that funds used to design and build your facilities have been spent wisely. Hiring a Facilities Programmer is one sure-fire way to insure your new facility runs like an efficient and effective well-oiled machine.
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